Hello there, please login! Home | Why R/C Heli's? | Getting Started | Set up | Flying Lessons | Articles | Newsletter Archive
Product Reviews | Links | Glossary | Buy/Sell Market | Find a pilot in your area | Login
Asia Pacific F3C Open
American Adventure
JR Challenge 2004
How to setup your rotorhead
9Z for Dummies
3D Downunder
Victorian F3C Champs
Visit to Model Engines
Flying the Fury Tempest FAI
Pilot Profile - Pete (Panos) Niotis
Australian Trip 03
Introduction to the Century Predator
Building the Fury Tempest FAI
Professional Aerial Photography
Pilot Profile - Dwight Schilling
Pilot Profile - Russ Deakin
Pilot Profile - Dwight Schilling
Toolbox Essentials
Setup for F3C
Vigor Refit
Pilot Profile - Curtis Youngblood
JR Challenge 2003
Pilot Profile - Len Sabato
Helicopter Resources
Comparing the Webra 91AAR and the YS 91ST
Engine Tuning
Curtis Youngblood in New Zealand
Futaba GV-1 Governor
Pilot Profile - Malorie Zastrow
Scale: Flybarless Heads
Pilot Profile - Jason Krause
JR 10X
Pilot Profile - Mark Christy
Futaba 9Z WCII
Pilot Profile - Alan Szabo Jr
163km/h with a Vigor CS!
Raptor 60 V2
Low cost, high camera!
TSK & the Squirrel Part (V)
Follow up - Hirobo Freya
Follow up - Hirobo Shuttle RG
Sceadu 30 update
Hirobo Shuttle RG
Vigor CS - My thoughts
Bye bye little Ergo
Kyosho Caliber 30
OS 91
JR Voyager 50
Hirobo Sceadu
TSK & the Squirrel Part (III)
NZ Team Returns from Heli World Champs
Hirobo Freya
OS 50 Review
Millie vs CS (Part III)
Living with the CS
TSK & the Squirrel (Part II)
Promoting the Hobby
Ergo Z230 Gasser
Millie vs CS (Part II)
Millie vs CS (Part I)
TSK & the Squirrel
TSK & the Squirrel (Part IV)
Professional Mount M1 CARBON with camera attached.

Professional Aerial Photography
John Ohnemus
AirFoil Aviation, Inc

Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in 1965 in Quincy, IL. After high school went into engineering and worked for a company from 1987 to 1999 where I also received schooling to help in owning and running your own business.

How did your business get started.
I had been building all types of aircraft while still working full time for companies and university projects. We then decided in 1996 to start AirFoil Aviation,Inc. an offer a line of powered parachutes to help people trying to learn how to fly while also producing units to carry payload. This was the start of the aerial photography side of our business, at this point we were quite naive on how far and fast UAV and RPV development would go.

When did you start flying

Airfoil Helicam JR Z230 with M1 Mount in action.

I started flying airplanes in 1980 and helicopters in the mid 80s. With technology everything changed to reliable radios, engines and video equipment.

Basic camera heli setup
You need to decide if this is going to be for fun or a business decision. If this is going to be a business you would need to look at a gas helicopter. Generally a 23cc engine is used and if possible a helicopter with 800mm blades to allow for a safe autorotation if needed.
The helicopter will need to be balanced well and will also need carbon blades along with athrust bearing on the main shaft. Generally on pitch negative 5 to positive 9 will work well.

Aerial Photography Early 90s
At this point we were covering events as much as possible but with the powered parachute so we missed probably 90% of the breaking news and promo events. We decided the basic camera mount design was good but we needed a better carrying platform so at this point we started building a 33% J3 cub and had the unit complete in about 30 days.
We basically at a flight time of 3 hours and would take off follow the Cub and shoot the still shots then fly back home and land. Sometime flights would exceed 50 miles.
We started designing the Helicam on a Kalt nitro helicopter in 1997 and found this to be more troublesome then originally expected.

Airfoil Helicam JR Z230 with M1 Mount in action.

Handling Vibration
We went through about 30 prototypes before we landed on the V1 Helicam. The problem with R/C helicopters is the vibration changes from the rotor head and tail rotor to the engine and swash plate movement every time you change an input on a transmitter stick.
At this point we decided the mount should be below the main shaft to cause a penelum effect and eliminate all of these issues.

The next big issue is the roll or side to side camera angle. Since a helicopter hovers at about 2 degrees side angle your camera needs to be able to compensate for that along with the tilt of the helicopter caused by a cross wind.
We were able to address all of these issues but had a limited pan and tilt which we had hoped could be improved.
At this point the V2 camera mount was released which allowed for the pan and tilt along with the roll we were looking for and still using the basic proven original design and we were shooting video part time for our local CBS affiliate along with promoting the station.
The problem that we now found came between transitional lift and desending into a hover from forward flight. Rotor blades tend to flutter and until the lead lag is assumed the helicopter tends to wobble and at times this could be seen in the video.
At this point we had a decision to make, go into production of the mount full time or we were offered a contract with our local NBC affiliate to cover breaking news, promoting events and shooting commercials. We decided to do both with the help of a great crew.

Airfoil Helicam JR Z230 in action filming a boat race.

Where does the Helicam stand now.
We now have the best system we have produced to date. Made from carbon fiber and aluminum with the 360 degree pan we had hoped for and 180 degrees tilt which was our goal. We still have 6" of helicopter tilt or roll compensation built in.

Where do you go from here.
Two words GYRO STABILIZATION. The basic design of the mount has allowed us to modify a KS2 and 4 gyro's to stabilize the mount in all three axis and dampen any quick movements so the video will be smooth at almost all times.
Two things that will be out by end of June are a servo digital delay to allow for a slow smooth tilt to match the speed of the pan and a basic heading lock of the pan function while being gyro stabilized. This will let you wag the tail of the helicopter without the camera knowing any movement is going on.

Flying among the 35-40% fixed wing planes.

Probably the greatest thing that has happened to this company is the pressure applied by NBC to be available in a minutes notice day or night and to fly in most all weather conditions. They are pushing us to a new level every time we cover an event or news story which in the end we make us produce the best product possible for this use.

Platform preference
In general we prefer the JR GS Voyager helicopter or a ccpm helicopter like the Benzin trainer that will accommodate 800mm blades. This allows you to have three or four servo's carrying the load of the helicopter and camera equipment. I would recommend a PCM receiver even if not using a gas engine.
For radio's we use the JR 8103H and the JR 10X for the helicopter. We pretty much go for reliability because of the conditions we have to fly in so we use JR 8311 servos on the cyclic and a JR 4735 on the throttle.
We have tested most gyro's on the market and have found the Futaba 401 and 9253 servo combinations works better than anything else we tested.
We run the gains on 90% and 80% and use the rudder D/R switch to operate the gain.
Our typical cyclic setup is at 100% travel with 40% expo on the aileron and elevator.

Liability Insurance
Insurance has become an issue for some but we have not found this to be a problem with about 98% of our customers. Most add this equipment on to an existing policy as a write on. I have found that most customers that are going to succeed in this industry will have no problem finding insurance and understand this requires a lot of hard work but in the end is one of the most rewarding jobs you could have as an R/C pilot.

Most don't understand that we are down linking the video to the ground for the camera man and he is viewing the actual picture in real time.
We use video glasses for the camera men but also at some demo's will setup another screen on the same frequency so the public is able to see the system pan/tilt and zoom which generally to most is unbelievable.

Past Work
We have personally worked for photographers and production companies but as of 2002 we are only covering breaking news and promoting events for WGEM our NBC affiliate.
In the beginning we did real-estate and news paper photo's which is where I would recommend most start.

John shaking the hand of a fixed wing flier who very nearly flew into the helicam.

We have covered Dirt bike races, Stock car races, Go cart races, Off roading events, Snow boarding events, Ice storms, Tornadoes and storm damage, Fires, Explosions, Construction sites, Bike events, Flooding, Missing persons, Downed ultralights, We have done field inspections for illegal drug operations, We have shot commercial footage for WGEM for local commercials for about every business you could imagine.
As far as what is possible with one of these system its really the sky's the limit. I have had customers call and tell me stories about a new market they have started or an idea they had to use the system for and how it took off.

I think we are just starting to tap into the real reality of what the R/C helicopter is actually capable of doing from a business sense.

Future product plans.
Several products will be released this year, a camera mount with tilt only for the typical 30 and 50 size heli's will be released along with an Industrial system for 30-40lb payloads and you will also see two mounts and complete systems in a large fixed wing configuration and a smaller unit of the same type.

John Ohnemus
AirFoil Aviation, Inc

Featured Link!
Team Vigor
A must for those who have got, or a thinking of purchasing, a JR Vigor. Full of excellent informati...

Suggest a link

Free newsletter!
Register for the monthly newsletter, pilot locator & Market
Click here


Email this page to a friend!
Click here

© Copyright LittleRotors.com 2001 - 2004
Contact simon@littlerotors.com for comments/questions.